Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Ukraine 'shocked' as military plane crash kills 22

At least two people were injured and taken to hospital in a serious condition, and the search continued for the others

Searchers combing the area where a Ukrainian military aircraft crashed found two more bodies on Saturday, bringing the death toll to 26. One person survived.

The plane, a twin-turboprop Antonov-26 belonging to the Ukrainian air force, was carrying a crew of seven and 20 cadets of a military aviation school when it crashed and burst into flames on Friday night while coming in for landing at the airport in Chuhuiv, about 400 kilometres east of the capital Kyiv.

Two people initially survived the crash, but one later died in a hospital. No cause for the crash has been determined.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared Saturday to be a day of mourning for the crash victims and ordered that flights of An-26 planes be halted pending investigation of the crash cause.

Mr Zelenskiy, who visited the crash area on Saturday, called for a full assessment of the condition of the country’s military equipment and said he wanted an official report on the crash by October 25.

Deputy Interior Minister Anton Gerashchenko said the incident was a "shock".

Footage of the crash released by officials on social media showed the smouldering remains of the Antonov-26 transport plane.

"Most of [the dead] were students" of the Kharkiv National Air Force University, the air force said in a statement.

There were 27 people on board, 20 cadets and seven crew, it added.

Twenty-two have been confirmed dead, two are injured and "the search for three more people continues", the emergency services said.

The injured are in a "critical" condition, regional governor Oleksiy Kucher said on Facebook.

The plane crashed at around 8:50 pm local time, two kilometres from the Chuhuiv military air base, the emergency services said.

In photos released by the emergency services, firefighters in helmets and reflective clothing sprayed aircraft debris with jets of water.

The body of the plane burst into flames on landing and firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze after an hour.

The town of Chuhuiv is around 30 kilometres southeast of Kharkiv and 100 kilometres west of the front line where government forces are fighting pro-Russian separatists.

The presidency said that according to preliminary information the transport plane crashed during a training flight.

The EU's top diplomat Josep Borrell sent his condolences on behalf of the bloc.

"My thoughts are with the families and friends of those who lost their lives," he tweeted.

The Antonov-26 is a light transport aircraft designed in Ukraine during the Soviet era and used by both military and civilian operators.

Nearly 1,400 of the planes were manufactured from 1969 to 1986, according to the company’s website. The age of the plane that crashed Friday was not immediately reported.

It is 24 metres long and has a wingspan of 29 metres and can fly at a cruising speed of 440 kilometres per hour.

An An-26 chartered by a contractor for the World Food Program crashed on August 22 while taking off from Juba in South Sudan, killing seven people.

Several military planes have crashed in Ukraine during training flights in recent years.

A pilot was killed in December 2018 after his Su-27 fighter crashed during landing in the Zhytomyr region.

Two months earlier, the same model of fighter crashed in a neighbouring region during the Clear Sky 2018 joint military exercises between Ukraine and NATO countries, killing the American and Ukrainian pilots on board.

In 2002, a Su-27 fell into the crowd at an airshow in Lviv in western Ukraine killing 77 people and injuring 165 others.

Updated: September 26, 2020 03:58 PM

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